Commonwealth of Nations membership criteria
Commonwealth of Nations membership criteria are the corpus of requirements that members and prospective members must meet to be allowed to participate in the Commonwealth of Nations. The criteria have been altered by a series of documents issued over the past eighty-two years.
The most important of these documents were the Statute of Westminster (1931), the London Declaration (1949), the Singapore Declaration (1971), the Harare Declaration (1991), the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme (1995), the Edinburgh Declaration (1997), and the Kampala Communiqué (2007). New members of the Commonwealth must abide by certain criteria that arose from these documents, the most important of which are the Harare principles and the Edinburgh criteria.
The Harare principles require all members of the Commonwealth, old and new, to abide by certain political principles, including democracy and respect for human rights. These can be enforced upon current members, who may be suspended or expelled for failure to abide by them. To date, Fiji, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe have been suspended on these grounds; Zimbabwe later withdrew.
The foremost of the Edinburgh criteria requires new members to have either constitutional or administrative ties to at least one current member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Traditionally, new Commonwealth members had ties to the United Kingdom. The Edinburgh criteria arose from the 1995 accession of Mozambique, at the time the only member that was never part of the British Empire (in whole or part). The Edinburgh criteria have been reviewed, and were revised at the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), allowing the admission of Rwanda at the 2009 CHOGM.
- 1 History
- 2 Prospective members
- 3 Footnotes
- 4 External links
The formation of the Commonwealth of Nations is dated back to the Statute of Westminster, an Act of the British Parliament passed on 11 December 1931. The Statute established the independence of the Dominions, creating a group of equal members where, previously, there was one (the United Kingdom) paramount. The solitary condition of membership of the embryonic Commonwealth was that a state be a Dominion. Thus, the independence of Pakistan (1947), India (1947), and Sri Lanka (1948) saw the three countries join the Commonwealth as independent monarchies. On the other hand, Burma (1948) and Israel (1948) did not join the Commonwealth, as they chose to become republics. The membership of Ireland lapsed when it unambiguously became a republic in 1949.
With India on the verge of promulgating a republican constitution, the 1949 Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference was dominated by the impending departure of over half of the Commonwealth's population. To avoid such a fate, Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent proposed that republics be allowed to remain in the Commonwealth, provided that they recognise King George VI as 'Head of the Commonwealth'. Known as the London Declaration, this agreement thus established the only formalised rule as being that members must recognise the Head of the Commonwealth. The arrangement prompted suggestions that other countries, such as France, Israel, and Norway, join. However, until Western Samoa joined in 1970, only recently independent countries would accede.
The first statement of the political values of the Commonwealth of Nations was issued at the 1961 conference, at which the members declared that racial equality would be one of the cornerstones of the new Commonwealth, at a time when the organisation's ranks were being swelled by new African and Caribbean members. The immediate result of this was the withdrawal of South Africa's re-application, which it was required to lodge before becoming a republic, as its government's apartheid policies clearly contradicted the principle.
Further political values and principles of the Commonwealth were affirmed in Singapore on 22 January 1971, at the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The fourteen points clarified the political freedom of its members, and dictated the core principles of the Commonwealth: world peace, liberty, human rights, equality, and free trade. However, neither the terms nor the spirit of the Declaration were binding, and several openly flouted it; despite little conformity, only Fiji was ever expelled for breaching these tenets (on 15 October 1987, following the second coup of that year).
The Harare Declaration, issued on 20 October 1991 in Harare, Zimbabwe, reaffirmed the principles laid out in Singapore, particularly in the light of the ongoing dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. The Declaration put emphasis on human rights and democracy by detailing these principles once more:
The Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme, issued on 12 November 1995 at the Millbrook Resort, near Queenstown, New Zealand, clarified the Commonwealth's position on the Harare Declaration. The document introduced compulsion upon its members, with strict guidelines to be followed in the event of breaching its rules. These included but were not limited to expulsion from the Commonwealth. Adjudication was left to the newly created Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
At the same CHOGM, the Programme was enforced for the first time, as Nigeria was suspended. On 19 December 1995, the CMAG found that the suspension was in line with the Programme, and also declared its intent on enforcing the Programme in other cases (particularly Sierra Leone and The Gambia). On 29 May 1999, the day after the inauguration of Nigeria's first democratically elected President since the end of military rule, Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ, the country's suspension was lifted, on the advice of the CMAG.
In 1995, Mozambique joined the Commonwealth, becoming the first member to have never had a constitutional link with the United Kingdom or another Commonwealth member. Concerns that this would allow open-ended expansion of the Commonwealth and dilute its historic ties prompted the 1995 CHOGM to launch the Inter-Governmental Group on Criteria for Commonwealth Membership, to report at the 1997 CHOGM, to be held in Edinburgh, Scotland. The group decided that, in future, new members would be limited to those with constitutional association with an existing Commonwealth member.
In addition to this new rule, the former rules were consolidated into a single document. They had been prepared for the High Level Appraisal Group set up at the 1989 CHOGM, but not publicly announced until 1997. These requirements, which remain the same today, are that members must:
- accept and comply with the Harare principles.
- be fully sovereign states.
- recognise Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of the Commonwealth.
- accept the English language as the means of Commonwealth communication.
- respect the wishes of the general population vis-à-vis Commonwealth membership.
On the advice of Secretary-General Don McKinnon, the 2005 CHOGM, held in Valletta, Malta, decided to re-examine the Edinburgh criteria. The Committee on Commonwealth Membership reported at the 2007 CHOGM, held in Kampala, Uganda. According to Don McKinnon, the members of the Commonwealth decided in principle to expand the membership of the organisation to include countries without linkages to the Commonwealth, but Eduardo del Buey stated that it would still take some time until the criteria are reformed. Outstanding applications as of the 2007 meeting included former Belgian colony Rwanda (application submitted in 2003 and approved in 2009), the former French colonies of Algeria and Madagascar, and the former British colony of Yemen and condominium of Sudan.
The revised requirements stated that:
- (a) an applicant country should, as a general rule, have had a historic constitutional association with an existing Commonwealth member, save in exceptional circumstances;
- (b) in exceptional circumstances, applications should be considered on a case-by-case basis;
- (c) an applicant country should accept and comply with Commonwealth fundamental values, principles, and priorities as set out in the 1971 Declaration of Commonwealth Principles and contained in other subsequent Declarations;
- (d) an applicant country must demonstrate commitment to: democracy and democratic processes, including free and fair elections and representative legislatures; the rule of law and independence of the judiciary; good governance, including a well-trained public service and transparent public accounts; and protection of human rights, freedom of expression, and equality of opportunity;
- (e) an applicant country should accept Commonwealth norms and conventions, such as the use of the English language as the medium of inter-Commonwealth relations, and acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of the Commonwealth; and
- (f) new members should be encouraged to join the Commonwealth Foundation, and to promote vigorous civil society and business organisations within their countries, and to foster participatory democracy through regular civil society consultations
Rwanda became the 54th nation to join the Commonwealth at the 2009 CHOGM. It became the second country (after Mozambique) not to have any historical ties with the United Kingdom. Rwanda had been a colony of Germany in the 19th century and of Belgium for the first half of the 20th century. Later ties with France were severed during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. President Paul Kagame also accused it of supporting the killings and expelled a number of French organisations from the country. In recent years, English has replaced French as the official language in parts of Rwanda. Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Tun Razak stated that Rwanda's application "was boosted by its commitment towards democracy as well as the values espoused by the Commonwealth". Consideration for its admission was also seen as an "exceptional circumstance" by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
||This section possibly contains original research. (February 2016)|
The following states would be eligible under the Edinburgh criteria (but not necessarily under the Harare criteria):
- Afghanistan: British protectorate or other control for much of 1823 to 1919.
- Argentina: British occupied Buenos Aires in 1806 ;see British invasions of the River Plate. Also see Y Wladfa.
- Austria:From 1945 to 1955 British forces occupied the areas of Karnten and Steiermark as well as zones inside Vienna.
- Bahrain: British protectorate until 1971.
- Bhutan: Protectorate of British India from 1910 to 1947.
- China: Part of its territory (Hong Kong) was a United Kingdom colony until 1997. The British also leased and administered the port city of Weihai and surrounding territory of Weihaiwei between 1898 and 1930, which they called "Port Edward." Britain also had spheres of influence in Tibet, the Guangzhou district and Shanghai and also along the banks of the Yangtze river in the latter half of the 19th century up until 1900.
- Chile: Between 1553 and 1558 Chile and England shared a head of state;Queeen Mary I when she married Phillip II and his father; Charles V proclaimed them "King and Queen of Chile" as well as England,Ireland,Naples and Jerusalem.In 1578 Sir Francis Drake landed off the tip of South America and named it Elizabeth Island and was one of the first English territorial claims in the New World. The nation of Chile has the second most British and Irish immigrants in Latin America, second only to Argentina. Around 50,000 English settlers settled in Chile. Most of them 32,000 settled in Valparaiso and helped develop it from a small village to a bustling city and port making it an informal British colony. Between 1826 and 1837 the Royal Navy established a South America Station to maintain British naval interests in the region. The remaining English immigrants settled in Santiago, Coquimbo(whose flag and coat of arms of the city have the Union Jack), and then mostly in Punta Arenas as well as other parts of this nation. While Scottish, Irish and Welsh immigrants settled in the Andes. British and Irish immigrants played an important part in developing this nation, Lord Cochrane who established rebel navies in Brazil and Greece after established firstly the Chilean Navy becoming its first admiral with the blessing of its revolutionary leader; Bernardo O'Higgins and they lead and liberated Chile from the Spanish in the Chilean War of Independence. Initially virtually all the Chilean Navy was either British or American.
- Cuba: Western Cuba was under British control from 1762 until 1763.
- Egypt: British protectorate from 1882 until 1922 but British troops still defended Egypt in Second World War and helped train and controlled the Egyptian Army. British troops controlled the Suez Canal until 1956.; English commonly used as a language of instruction and administration and the currency today still is the 'Egyptian pound".
- Eritrea: administered by Britain under UN Mandate until 1951.
- Ethiopia:In 1868 in the British Expedition of Abyssinia to rescue British hostages in Ethiopia and they descimated forces of theEthiopian Empire causing the Emperor Tewodros II to commit suicide. In 1941 British and Commonwealth troops liberated this nation from the Italians to hand it back to the Emperor Haile Salaissie.
- France: During the Suez crisis in 1956 it was suggested that France join the Commonwealth to align their interests in the Middle East with those of the United Kingdom. The French Prime Minister, Guy Mollet, proposed that a Franco-British Union with common citizenship and Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. But Anthony Eden instead proposed that France join the Commonwealth with Commonwealth citizenship rights and recognising the Queen as the Head of the Commonwealth but this was rejected. Parts of France have been occupied by English forces and authority at times between 1066 to 1558. With the Angevin Empire from 1172 to 1242 which had partial or direct control of duchies Normandy, Aquitaine, Brittany and Gascony as well as various counties such as Anjou. The English crown dominated half of France until the Angevin Empire was lost by the mismanagement of King John. In 1216 the English rebel barons invited King Louis VIII the Lion of France to be King of England. This nearly became so until King John of England died and they chose his infant son to be Henry III instead. Years later Edward III through his French mother wanted claim of the French crown. But under Salic Law his claim was not legitimate thus starting the Hundred Years War. Scotland formed the Auld Alliance with France and Burgundy allied themselves with England. The English took Calais in 1346 and had great victories at the Battle of Crecy and the Battle of Poitiers. In 1415 after his spectacular victory at the Battle of Agincourt, The English king; Henry V was recognised as the heir apparent and regent of France at the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. He married Catherine of Valois and they had a son who was officially king of both England and France until the French drove the English out in 1453 leaving them only with Calais until finally taking that in 1558. From 1453( realistically from 1558) to 1801 all English and British kings claimed what was to become the "ghost title" of the Queen or King of France. From 1793 to 1814 French Royalists and Chasseurs Britanniques allied themselves to Great Britain and swore alliegance to the British crown. From 1794 to 1796 on the island of Corsica was established the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom where George III became its ruler only to be reconquered by the French Republic. British forces have also at times had spheres of influence and occupied French territories including Martinique,Guadeloupe,Saint Barthelemy,St Pierre and Miquelon, French Polynesia and New Caledonia.
- The Gambia: member of the Commonwealth until its withdrawal in 2013.
- Germany: British kings from 1714 to 1837 were also Electors and eventually Kings of Hanover there was at a time the Kings German Legion in the British Army, but Hanover was politically divorced from the United Kingdom and soon the title was lost due to Salic Law when Queen Victoria came to the throne. During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain took the small but strategic island of Heligoland off Denmark who had fought with the Holy Roman Empire for its possession which it finally got in 1714. The British administered it from 1807 to 1890 when it was ceded to Germany with the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty. After 1918 the German colonial empire was confiscated and former German colonies became the protectorates and nations of British Cameroons, British Togoland, Namibia, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tanganyika and Papua New Guinea. Rwanda and Burundi were former German colonies that were ceded to Belgium in 1918. They have both made bids to join the Commonwealth; so far Rwanda has been successful. From 1945 to 1949 the British occupied and administered a zone that consisted of the states of Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, and North Rhine-Westphalia. From 1945 to 1990 a sector of West Berlin was administered by the British.
- Greece: From 1810 to 1816 there was the 1st Regiment Greek Light Infantry serving in the British Army.In 1815 the Ionian Islands came under British protection Greece was founded as an independent state from the Ottoman Empire in 1825 and were ceded and annexed to Greece in 1862. Between 1898 and 1909 British forces occupied the region of Heraklion on the island of Crete when a multi-national force stationed itself in the Cretan State which gained independence from the Ottoman Empire the Cretan State in 1913 was annexed into Greece.They also administered the Dodecanese islands from 1945 to 1947 before being ceded to Greece.
- Haiti: Parts of its territory were under British control during the Haitian Revolution from 1793 until 1798.
- Honduras: The southern tip of its eastern coastline was part of the British occupied Mosquito Coast from 1638 to 1787 and from 1844 to 1860.
- Iceland: In 1940 British forces invaded and occupied the Kingdom of Iceland in order to arrest German agents they were then relieved by American troops who occupied the island until 1945. During this time Iceland in 1944 broke its union with then German occupied Denmark and with King Christian X and formally became a republic.
- Indonesia: The city of Bengkulu on the island of Sumatra from 1714 with trading post Fort Marlborough became a region known as British Bencoolen until 1824. The island of Java was in British hands from 1811 to 1814 until both territories were ceded to the Dutch. The legacy of former British occupation is that Indonesia is a "left hand driving" nation.
- Iran: This ancient nation and empire has been somewhat of a prize between Britain and Russia in the "Great Game". British interest in this nation began in 1622 when the British East India Company established a trading post in Bandar 'Abbas. Also parts of the nation ,especially Bushehr where its headquarters were until 1946 was under the control of the Persian Gulf Residency that ran from 1763 to 1971. The Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1907 concluded the Great Game by securing its spheres of influence in this nation. Russia took the north and Britain took the south. Also the British ran the Imperial Bank of Persia and was the state and issue bank of the nation, it also controlled the oil fields with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and a military presence with the South Persia Rifles. This military force was used in the Persia Campaign between 1914 to 1918. In 1919 Britain went to establish a protectorate of Iran. In 1921 a coup involving much political unrest with Reza Khan claiming the title of the Shah and a new Imperial dynasty. In 1925 and fought and disposed of the puppets of the British such as Sheikh Khazal. The now proclaimed Reza Shah despite being aided by General Edmund Ironside and the British forces, gained anti-British sentiments and in World War 2 he had Nazi sympathies that lead to the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran in 1941. This resulted in Britain once again occupying southern,western and central Iran and Reza Shah being forced to abdicate in favour of his son; Mohammad Reza Pahlavi he died in exile in 1944 in Johannesburg , South Africa. British troops withdrew from Iran in 1946.
- Iraq: British Mandate of Mesopotamia until 1932.
- Ireland: the only country ever to secede from the United Kingdom; shared a monarch with England, then Scotland and England, later Great Britain and later the United Kingdom from 1177 to 1949; parliamentary ties with the parliament of England and later Great Britain from 1494 to 1782; a part of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1922; and a British Dominion from 1922 to 1937. Ireland was formerly a member of the Commonwealth, but its membership terminated when it declared itself a republic in 1949, prior to the London Declaration, which allowed republics to remain in the Commonwealth.
- Israel: part of the British Mandate of Palestine until 1948. Israel's eligibility was declared in 2006 by the Commonwealth secretary-general.
- Japan:Between 1945 to 1952 British and Commonwealth forces occupied and administered the demilitarised western prefectures of Shimane, Yamaguchi, Tottori, Okayama, Hiroshima and Shikoku Island, with headquarters in Kure.
- Jordan: part of the British Mandate of Palestine 1920–1921; protectorate of Transjordan 1921–1946.
- Kuwait: British protectorate until 1961.
- Lebanon:In 1941 British forces invaded and liberated the nation from Vichy France in the Syria-Lebanon campaign. The nation was then ceeded to Free France who soon after granted them their independence.
- Libya: In 1943 the British administered the provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica until 1951.
- Morocco: Between the years 1661 to 1684 the English occupied and administered the port-city of Tangier. This was part of the dowry that King Charles II received when he married Catherine of Braganza as a treaty he also received Bombay. However, due to administration costs and Moroccans living outside the walls wanting a return of the city, it was eventually abandoned.
- Myanmar: British Colony until 1948.
- Netherlands: William III of England,Scotland and Ireland from 1688 to 1704 and was also Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of various provinces of the Dutch Republic . British and Russian forces invaded and occupied the Netherlands in 1799 for a few months only to be disposed of by the French-Batavian forces.British and Commonwealth forces helped liberate this nation from Nazi occupation and liberate the Dutch East Indies from Japan.
- Nicaragua: Its eastern coastline was part of the British occupied Mosquito Coast from 1638 to 1787 and from 1844 to 1860.
- Nepal: British protectorate until 1923.
- Oman: British protectorate of Muscat and Oman until 1971.
- Panama:In 1698 the Kingdom of Scotland wished to set up a colony called "Caledonia" in the Gulf of Darien in Panama. Due to poor management, divided leadership, lack of demand of trade goods, disease and epidemics as well as Spanish raids and blockades. The Darien scheme ended as a failure in 1700 which left Scotland in financial ruin.This was an important factor that brought about the Act of Union in 1707.
- Philippines: British occupation of Manila from 1762 until 1764; controlled by the United States from 1898-1946 (as the Commonwealth of the Philippines 1935-1946).
- Qatar: British protectorate until 1971.
- Saudi Arabia:Part of this nation belonged to the Transjordan protectorate. In 1915 the Treaty of Darin was made between the United Kingdom and Abdul-Aziz Al Saud (Ibn Saud) the ruler of Nejd. This made all the lands of the House of Saud a British protectorate and guaranteed British sovereignty over Kuwait,Qatar and the Trucial States. This also brought on revolt against the Ottoman Turks. In 1925 Ibn Saud's forces conquered Hejaz and the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd was formed, then in 1927 the Treaty of Jeddah was signed and this superseded the previous treaty. In 1932 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came into being and was recognised by the British.
- Senegal: British forces in the Seven Years' War captured this French settlement in particular the port of Saint-Louis in 1758. After more confrontation Senegal was ceded back to France as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
- Somalia: Following World War II, Britain retained control of both British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland as protectorates.
- South Sudan: administered between 1899 and 1956, when it was a condominium of the United Kingdom and Egypt as part of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. (South Sudan has applied to join the Commonwealth.)
- Sudan: Anglo-Egyptian condominium but a British colony in reality until 1956. (Sudan has applied to join the Commonwealth.)
- Suriname: English colony of Willoughbyland from 1650 to 1667 and controlled by the British from 1799 to 1816. In 2012 Suriname expressed plans to join the Commonwealth and the British government has made it a priority to provide guidance to Suriname in applying for Commonwealth membership
- Syria:In 1941 British forces invaded and liberated the nation from Vichy France in the Syria-Lebanon campaign. The nation was then ceded to Free France who soon after granted them their independence.
- Turkey: British forces (along with French,Italian and Greek forces) occupied and administered the city of Constantinople(modern Instanbul) between 1918 and 1923. In fact the last Ottoman sultan;Mehmed VI departed from Contantinople on the HMS Malaya after that the Treaty of Lausanne was signed and foreign forces evacuated making way for the Republic of Turkey.
- United Arab Emirates: seven British protectorates, known collectively as the Trucial States, until 1971.
- United States: the original Thirteen Colonies, most US territory east of the Mississippi River, much of the former Red River Colony, and the former Oregon Country were all under British control until various dates ranging from 1776 to 1846. Hawaii: It was named the "Sandwich Islands" by British explorer; James Cook after his sponser; John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.When it was an independent kingdom it was occupied by a British force in 1843 in the Paulet Affair and became a British protectorate between 1849 to 1853. It is the only U.S. state to have the Union Jack on its state/national flag and the only U.S.state to have a royal palace. Also in 1579 Sir Francis Drake established a claim of New Albion near San Fransisco what is known today as Drake's Bay
- Uruguay: During the year of 1807 the British occupied the city of Montevideo. For more information see British invasions of the River Plate.
- Vietnam: British troops occupied Saigon from September, 1945 to March, 1946 before ceding it back to the French. This was basically Operation Masterdom.
- Yemen: South Yemen was a British colony (Aden) and British protectorates (Protectorate of South Arabia and the states, apart from Aden, in the Federation of South Arabia) until 1967. (Yemen has applied to join the Commonwealth.)
- Zimbabwe: member of the Commonwealth until 2003.
Secessionist movements and other territories
There are several secessionist movements and other sub-national territories that, were they to gain independence, would be eligible to join the Commonwealth. The following countries and territories would be eligible under the Edinburgh criteria (but not necessarily Harare) and have either expressed interest in joining or been considered for entry:
- Hong Kong: British Colony until 1997.
- Northern Ireland: constituent country of the United Kingdom, a member since the Commonwealth's foundation.
- Quebec: province of Canada, a member since the Commonwealth's foundation.
- Scotland: constituent country of the United Kingdom, a member since the Commonwealth's foundation.
- Somaliland: The state that came about through the breakaway from Somalia in 1991 and regards itself as the successor state of British Somalia has shown interest in joining the Commonwealth.
- Wales: constituent country of the United Kingdom, a member since the Commonwealth's foundation.
Newly movement for secession is by Sabah Sarawak Union (UK) for Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia Federation.
- Crown dependencies ( Guernsey, Jersey, and Isle of Man): While their constitutional status bears some resemblance to that of the Commonwealth realms, the Crown dependencies are not members of the Commonwealth of Nations. They participate in the Commonwealth of Nations by virtue of their association with the United Kingdom, and participate in various Commonwealth institutions in their own right. For example, all three participate in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Commonwealth Games. All three Crown dependencies regard the existing situation as unsatisfactory and have lobbied for change. The States of Jersey have called on the UK Foreign Secretary to request that the Commonwealth Heads of Government "consider granting associate membership to Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies as well as any other territories at a similarly advanced stage of autonomy". Jersey has proposed that it be accorded "self-representation in all Commonwealth meetings; full participation in debates and procedures, with a right to speak where relevant and the opportunity to enter into discussions with those who are full members; and no right to vote in the Ministerial or Heads of Government meetings, which is reserved for full members". The States of Guernsey and the Government of the Isle of Man have made calls of a similar nature for a more integrated relationship with the Commonwealth, including more direct representation and enhanced participation in Commonwealth organisations and meetings, including Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings.
- The British overseas territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, and Turks and Caicos Islands, and other similar states in free association with New Zealand ( Niue, Tokelau, Cook Islands and Ross Dependency) and Australia ( Christmas Island, Coral Sea Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Australian Antarctic Territory, and Norfolk Island). Many of these territories and associated states participate in the Commonwealth of Nations by virtue of their association with the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, and participate in various Commonwealth institutions in their own right, and are frequently listed as members of the Commonwealth by virtue of their relationship with these full member states.
- Aruba: This island of the Netherland Antilles was under British control between 1799 and 1802 and between 1804 to 1816 before being ceeded back to the Dutch. Between 1942 to 1945 Aruba and all of the other islands of the Dutch Caribbean were occupied by British and American forces with the consent of the Netherlands.
- Faroe Islands:British troops invaded and occupied these islands to preempt a German invasion. They stayed until 1945 and the territory was returned to Denmark.
- Greenland: In 1578 Martin Frobisher financed by the Muscovy Company made a claim for the coast of Greenland for England and made an unsuccessful attempt to establish a colony in Frobisher Bay.
- Minorca: British occupied the island from 1708 and was temporary until it was made permanent in 1713. British occupied it up until 1756 which they regained in 1763 to 1782 to be conquered again by the British in 1798 and to be ceeeded back to Spain permanently in 1802.
The "Palestinian movement" is not a secessionist movement (as the territory concerned is not recognised as forming part of any State) nor a sub-national territory (for the same reason), but the "Palestinian Territories" may, if they achieve sovereignty, apply for membership:
- Palestine: the area comprising this non-member UN observer state was part of the British Mandate for Palestine until 1948. The State of Palestine has shown interest in joining the Commonwealth.
There are a range of other states that have expressed formal or informal interest in joining the Commonwealth or have merely made enquiries about membership (expressing no view on whether they wish to become members), despite some not meeting the Edinburgh criteria as they are now. However, with the criteria being re-examined, they may be inclined to launch membership bids in the future:
- Algeria: has expressed interest.
- Cambodia has expressed interest
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: British/American explorer; Henry Morton Stanley explored a great deal of the Congo. He also helped build the first modern road along the Congo River and founded the trading post of Kinshasa in 1881 which would grow to become the nations capital city and largest city. The city of Kisangani was formerly known as "Stanleyville." as it was founded as the "Stanley Falls Station" by the man himself in 1883.
- Dominican Republic: In 2013 the Foreign Minister; Carlos Morales Troncoso made bids for his nation to join the Commonwealth.
- East Timor
- Madagascar: has expressed interest. British forces took the island off Vichy France and occupied it in 1942
- Georgia: In 1902 Baron Rothschild had a refinery at Batumi with his "Caspian and Black Sea oil company" at least 1000 staff were employed. British troops were garrisoned at Batumi between 1918 to 1920. 
- Howden, Daniel (26 November 2009). "The Big Question: What is the Commonwealth's role, and is it relevant to global politics?". The Independent (London).
- Ireland's status was ill-defined between 1936 and 1949.
- "France and UK considered 1950s 'merger'". London: Guardian Unlimited. 15 January 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2007.
- "Kongebesøk i øyriket" (in Norwegian). Aftenposten. 26 October 2005. Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2008.
- "Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles 1971". Commonwealth Secretariat. 22 January 1971. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
- "Fiji Rejoins the Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat. 30 September 1997. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
- "Harare Commonwealth Declaration, 1991". Commonwealth Secretariat. 1991-10-20. Retrieved 2006-09-16.
- "The Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme on the Harare Declaration, 1995". Commonwealth Secretariat. 12 November 1995. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
- "First Meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration". Commonwealth Secretariat. 20 December 1995. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
- "Nigeria Resumes Full Commonwealth Membership". Commonwealth Secretariat. 18 May 1999. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
- "Edinburgh Communique, 1997". Commonwealth Secretariat. 27 October 1997. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
- McIntyre, W. David (April 2008). "The Expansion of the Commonwealth and the Criteria for Membership". Round Table 97 (395): 273–85. doi:10.1080/00358530801962089.
- Collinge, John (July 1996). "Criteria for Commonwealth Membership". Round Table 85 (339): 279–86. doi:10.1080/00358539608454314.
- te Velde-Ashworth, Victoria (10 October 2005). "The future of the modern Commonwealth: Widening vs. deepening?" (doc). Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
- "2005 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting: Final Communiqué". Commonwealth Secretariat. 27 November 2005. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
- Osike, Felix (24 November 2007). "Rwanda membership delayed". New Vision. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting: final communiqué
- Kron, Josh (28 November 2009). "Rwanda Joins Commonwealth". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- "Rwanda seeks to join Commonwealth". BBC News. 21 December 2006. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- Ross, Will (27 November 2009). "What would the Commonwealth do for Rwanda?". BBC News. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- Muin, Abdul; Majid, Abdul (29 November 2009). "Commonwealth Accepts Rwanda's Membership Bid". Bernama. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- "Rwanda: Joining the Commonwealth". The New Times (AllAfrica). 27 November 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- Mole, Stuart (July 1998). "Issues of Commonwealth membership". Round Table 87 (347): 307–12. doi:10.1080/00358539808454426.
- Report in the Telegraph: Israel and Palestine could join the Commonwealth.
- South Sudan on Track to Join Commonwealth.
- South Sudan Launches Bid to Join Commonwealth
- Suriname plans to join the Commonwealth
- Suriname eyeing membership of Commonwealth
- Worldwide Priority: Strengthening Guyana’s participation in the Commonwealth and providing guidance to Suriname as it considers applying for membership
- 1972 Cabinet Papers: Repartition - Still a Threat - By Ciaran Mulholland, Quote:Making Northern Ireland "an independent state within the Commonwealth" was also under active consideration.
- Burns, John F. (21 February 1992). "Montreal Journal; A Sovereign Quebec, He Says, Needn't Be Separe". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
[Mr. Parizeau] has even suggested that a sovereign Quebec might join the Commonwealth, the group of nations that were formerly British colonies.
- YOUR SCOTLAND, YOUR VOICE - Summary of the SNP White Paper on Scottish Independence, quote:Scotland would also be able to play a role in other global groups such as...the Commonwealth
- Independent Wales would be 39% richer, claims ex-MP, quote:Plaid has a long-term ambition for an independent Wales within the EU
- "Written evidence from States of Jersey". Chief Minister of Jersey. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
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